The Golden City

Whenever I mentioned to my friends that we intent to go onto a trip to Prague the reaction was almost the same – “Awww, Prague, what a beau-ti-ful city!”. The city is known as the “Paris of the East” and although I haven’t visited Paris I believe people who say this are probably right. No matter how you call it – after having been there finally I must say it is the most beautiful city I have seen so far. Here is a little report of the trip – chronologically.

Wednesday:

Our hotel is situated in Praha-Smichov. This city part consists of a lot of newer business buildings, hotels and a big shopping mall called Novy Smichov. After checking in into the hotel we decide to not use the nearby metro but to walk direction downtown. Over the Vltava we reach the Nove Mesto part of Prague. What we notice right away is the big traffic on almost all streets of this part. Many people still use old cars running on unfiltered Diesel. On the other, positive side it is not necessary to put away the digital camera since at almost every corner, interesting, nicely decorated houses and squares pop up. Highlights in this area of town are “Fred and Ginger”, the dancing house as well as the Charles Square.

We move on on our way to the Stare Mesto, the old city center. A gem is “Slovansky Ostrov” an island in the Vltava river with a nice castle-type of building called “Zofin”, a cultural center. Here we find some places to sit in the shade with a nice look onto the river. The Vltava is much different than the other rivers I saw before because due to some little built in water falls at most of its parts the only types of ships that use it here are little rowing or pedal boats and a few tourist ships.

Vltava River seen from the island

A few blocks further we reach the shopping district of Prague consisting of a big pedestrian zone and Wencelas Square, a big rectangle area with a parklike zone in the middle part and shops to the sides ending up at a huge museum building. This street might be comparable to the Champs Elysees in Paris.

Wencelas Square

Reaching Stare Mesto the density of beautiful buildings rises more and more, almost every little street has something to offer, paintings at walls, ornaments and statues, you’ll find so many that you might as well plan to spend a lot of time here if you wanna see them all.

Stare Mesto

We take a little break at one of the few smokefree restaurants in Prague, the “Bohemian Bagel“. A place run by a Czech and an American which offers some delicious and authentic american food. After relaxing here we head on to the Charles Bridge. The tourist density rises and we find ourselves within large groups of people from all over the world walking over the bridge, taking photos of almost every statue along the way. The Mala Strana quarter begins right after the bridge with Hradcany, the Castle Hill throwning over the narrow paths and cute looking buildings in this area of town. We take the effort to climb around 180 – 200 stairs up to the castle and I am a little bit surprised that – although it is getting dark already – we are still able to enter the different courtyards of this huge building. The view from the hill onto Prague is magnificent and worth the sweating experience of reaching this place. Very delicious icecream from Cream & Dream refreshes us afterwards.

Stairway to the Hradcany Castle Hill

Back over the Charles Bridge. Suddenly, to many people’s surprise, a big fireworks starts from a boat and I wonder if this is done everyday for the tourist’s pleasure? Because I don’t know of any special occasion or celebration. After the fireworks we had our way back to the Wencelas Square noticing even bigger crowds of tourists on their search for a nice dinner or drink and walking by a lot of souvenir shops. Sadly we don’t have the budget to buy something from the beautiful but expensive Bohemian Glass being sold everywhere. The whole city is now illuminated in fascinating lights. Almost every building uses different colors. We take the metro back to the hotel. It needs to be mentioned that the platforms are much deeper down than in Berlin and the long escalators are going with so much speed that I wonder how disabled or older people are able to hop on and off of them.

Thursday:

After eating at a store of the Bio-Cafe chain “Bio Cafe” (organic food, smokefree) we go downtown to the Wencelaw Square in order to look at a Multimedia and a book store. Returning to Smichov we explore Novy Smichov, a big, nicely designed mall. I am not ashamed to say that we spend about 2h in Tesco, a giant supermarket since I am always interested in finding out, what other countries offer concerning grocery stuff. It appears to me, that the Czech people are obviously big fans of any kind of muesli bars as well as of non alcoholic beverages when looking at the big variety of these items in the shop. Getting around and communicating in the shops is easy by the way since almost everbody and especially the younger people are understanding and talking english.

The mall is directly connected via a bridge with a small park on a hill, the Sacre Coeur park from which you have a nice view of Prague. We decide to walk from Smichov to Mala Strana exploring Prague at this side of the river. The absolute highlight on our walk here is the Petrin Hill. This is a big park. You can either have it easy by going up there with a tram or you walk up the hill which is a sportive event since parts are very steep. Finally reaching the top we have another nice look of the castle hill and Prague as well as of the buildings up here, the Hunger Wall and the Petrin tower, a copy of the Eifeltower.

Petrin Tower

On our way down we see a lot of embassies and little cafes. We cross the Charles Bridge again, walking through Stare Mesto making sure we use streets we haven’t visited before. A nice meal ends this trip to Prague.

There are much more photos of our trip in the album.

Charles Bridge

Walking up stairs in Thuringia

On my list of states in Germany that I haven’t visited so far there are a few left, one of them was Thuringia. This state in the middle of Germany didn’t see me so far since it is pretty far away from Berlin. Almost summerlike weather was announced for thursday so I took my chance to go there. Thuringia has a lot of interesting sights, the practical thing about them is that if you take the Autobahn 4 many of those are just right at it with just a few miles distance in between them. I started at the furthest point away and stopped at the closer cities afterwards.

Wartburg: view of Thuringia

Eisenach – Wartburg: In the hitlist of old castles in Germany, the Wartburg surely will take its place in the Top 3. Not only because this building is situated in a nice landscape but also because of its historical meaning. Martin Luther translated the new testament into German here, students demonstrated for a united german country at the Wartburgfest in the 19th century etc. etc.

Before arriving at the castle the visitor has some obstacles to overcome. When I came to the parking lot I first thought I am paying the entrance fee to the castle already since they demanded 4 euros just for my car to be parked here. What followed was a long and steep walk upstairs to the Wartburg. I would have thought, that, once we drove up on a narrow street including some serpentines the castle was in reach but that was wrong. The view of the building and the magnificent overview of the Thuringia landscape around it was worth all the climbing though.

Wartburg

Baumkronenpfad: Nationalpark Hainlich

My wife saw a documentary about this place a while ago. In a natural preserve, meaning a big forest not man made, a few hundred meter long walkway was created high up at the level of the treetops finishing at an observation deck in a tower. Again, we had to climb a lot of stairs. Continue reading

pickle land

While I’m at it and the nice weather won’t give up: A trip to the Spreewald. I don’t know why I haven’t been there earlier since this is one of the most visited recreation areas of the Berliners and it is close – at least that is what I thought. While the distance is only about 60 miles, it took me about 1.30 hours to leave Berlin plus another 1.20 hours. I could have taken my bike if I would have known that. The reason: I had to first make my way through almost the city crossing it from the far north to the south.

Anyways:

Luebbenau: Probably tourist destination no. 1 in the Spreewald (Spree = a river, wald = forest). It’s main attractions are the pickles being sold almost everwhere in this town, especially at a market close to the – and this is the next attraction – boat harbour. Imagine small woodboats like the ones in Venice, a canal system through a forest and lots of people taking a trip with these nicely decorated boats. I was tempted to go on a ride too but it was already pretty late and since I saw ashtrays on the tables in the boats I didn’t want to go because I did not want to be smoked in.

Luebbenau: canal with boat

Vetschau: This place is almost world-famous for it’s website about a storknest including a webcam that lets you watch the storks when they are there and raise their baby storks. The main church, the Doppelkirche, is a church that, as it’s name says is two churches in one serving in the german language and a minory that speaks wendisch.

Vetschau: Doppelchurch

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